Tony Baker was my great uncle. His real name was Will Rogers Baker, although I don't think I've ever gotten the story as to how he became known as Tony. He was more like an uncle since he wasn't that much older than my dad. He lived fairly close by while I was growing up and we visited often, even having a family reunion at his house many years ago. He was the baby of the family and everyone loved him. Everyone. His oldest sister was my daddy's mama, MaMa. The Baker family has touched my heart in such a way that my son's middle name is Baker. The desk in my daughter's room is from Tony and Fay, a piece that was handed down to me around her age. It's a family of which I am deeply proud to be a member.
The Bakers are fun-loving people; Tony most of all. He was already ready with a smile, a hug, a handshake, a good pat on the back. Always up for a game of Rook, a game of golf, or a game of practical jokes and funny stories; Uncle Tony spread joy liberally.
He was devoted to his family. He gave more than he took. He was gracious, kind, and loving. He was an active Rotary member and an Army Ranger, a Green Beret, devoted to his country and his fellow man.
He was the kind of man that left you feeling encouraged, accepted, loved simply by being in his presence. He was full of grace, common sense, and a deep faith in God. He looked for the best, accepted the worst, and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
He was the kind of man that we need more of today if our future generation has any chance at succeeding in life and drawing people to Jesus. He was full of integrity and character, wit and intellect, humility and honor.
The last time I saw him was at our most recent family reunion last June. It was also my daughter's birthday, so the day was extra special. I can still hear his voice, his laugh, his prodding of the photographer, my nephew, to hurry to get into the family photo. He was such a joy. He will be greatly missed.
I'm betting he is sitting in Heaven giving my MaMa a hard time about something. I'm betting he's slapping his brothers on their backs as they welcome him home. I'm betting he's already hugged his mom and dad and I know they are glad to have him home.
He was a blessing, and I'm a better person for having had him in my life.